All talk, little walk? Feet are still dragging when delivering on workplace health and safety.

Despite availability of good business solutions and commitment from management, a new report claims that many New Zealand organisations are still facing challenges in improving workplace health and safety performance.

Read Assura MD Hamish Howard’s latest thoughts on why top level leadership and participation is needed to establish a focused health and safety work culture.  

First the good news:  Four in five CEOs saw an improvement in health and safety in 2016 and most rank it as a key business priority  with nearly all boards now discussing  health and safety risks. This is according to Deloitte’s latest Health and Safety Leadership Survey.

However, the same respondents cited worker engagement and risk management as being the main barriers preventing their organisations from building solid workplace health and safety practices.

This means there is still a yawning gap between perception at the top and reality on the ground.

And there’s more grim reading:

  • Although frequency of reporting has increased, most don’t get useful analysis of what the data actually means.
  • Workplace culture is identified as the biggest challenge for workplace safety, but less effort goes into improving it.
  • Nine out of 10 CEOs say their risks are actively managed, however 25 percent say their risks are not well described (documented or understood).
  • One in five CEOs are not clear about roles and responsibilities for managing risks in their supply chain.
  • Only 28 percent of CEOs are providing staff with easy to use hotlines, apps or online methods to report concerns or issues.

These results must frustrate many  – particularly those who thought the bad old days of a ‘she’ll be right culture’ were over.  But what does this also say about our own management competency as business leaders? Are we collectively still being, excuse the language, ‘half-arsed’ about the health and safety of our people?

Leadership and an engaged workforce are the two main ingredients for changing work health and safety culture for the better. Not meetings where you talk about health and safety, not posters in the lunchroom, not updating your website to say you care about your staff and certainly not employing more people to ensure you comply. In fact, the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 states that businesses now have a duty to engage with their staff on health and safety matters that may directly affect them.

We’ve been working with various public and private organisations, such as Hellers, Trade Assist and the Greater Wellington Regional Council to help overcome these challenges. These companies have invested in a culture of health and safety to define what good, productive and safe work looks like.  Without this culture and leadership any other attempts to improve it will fail, as will any system put in place to support it.

Where we’re achieving the most success is through an automated health and safety system that makes it simple for people to identify and report issues. And it can be done anonymously. However, this only works because the building blocks of the right culture and staff engagement are in place and then we simply provide a system that is configured to reflect their processes and reinforce the culture.

Risk and hazard management is one of the key health and safety elements that many of our clients want to focus on – particularly when it comes to reporting and analysis.

With nearly a quarter of CEOs revealing that their risks are not well described or understood, this appears to be an ongoing area for improvement.

This is why it’s important that we developed a system where activity and risk is assigned to individuals as processes and hazards move through their lifecycles. This ensures a consistent approach and that the appropriate actions are completed. Senior leaders and management are provided with a centralised overview of the company’s health and safety performance, while employees have the tools to intuitively and easily take responsibility for their own safety.

Individual businesses will also have different risk profiles, and therefore differing requirements from their health and safety systems. The main thing is to ensure the system is configured to meet your individual needs.

Another factor potentially undermining effective risk management is the lack of data analytics to identify trends and areas for improvement. Your health and safety system should ultimately provide you and your board with a complete picture of activity across the business and capture key lead indicators – guard rail at the top of the cliff vs ambulance at the bottom. This is one of the most popular features of the Assura system.

In terms of increasing worker engagement, you need to know what is causing concern and act accordingly. Such an approach shows that the company listens to the team, placing importance on their safety and wellbeing rather than just being a loathsome ‘box-ticker’.

The result? More staff engagement, loyalty and dedication to the job.

And the system needs to be accessible, and part of how things are done. No dramas. Assura’s Health and Safety software is designed to be used by anyone, anywhere. Staff are encouraged to enter all safety concerns, observations and incidents by using the Assura portal or mobile app. The field-based system ensures staff can easily access it from any mobile device, leading to increased reporting, engagement and onsite awareness.

With the new health and safety legislation now in place, we are seeing some real improvements across the board. However, as stated by Deloitte, there is no room for complacency.

Further information on Assura’s intuitive health and safety software, and how it can help manage a large number of health and safety related procedures, can be found here.

Deloitte’s full survey report can be viewed or downloaded from www.deloitte.com/nz/healthandsafety.